Will consumers accept marketing on mobile devices…

…or will they be willing to pay for content, or want it at all?

Marketers are obviously hoping that we will be willing to accept some form of advertising on our phones. In the United States, the very thought of getting advertising on our handsets is appaling to us. But what if the content was not advertising per se, but sponsored content that we subscribed to? What if a portion of our long distance or roaming calls were free and paid for by a sponsor?

For the most part, mobile content is new to us in the Unites States. Only a very small percentage of the handsets can even play video streams, but that is changing fast. In Asia, watching video content is commonplace. Technology aside, large cultural differences make it difficult to compare the success Asia has seen with mobile content in the United States. For one thing, in Asia, people’s cell phones are often the ONLY device they have to communicate with. Unlike Europe or the U.S., most users do not have a computer and rely solely on their phones for everything.

In these countries, subscribing to content is commonplace and a large revenue source for the providers who face continuing competitive pressure on the price of regular voice and data services.

So where is it going…? It is clear that while the U.S. may be behind, the world is watching to see if our proposed ad model will work. Logic sais it will as we accept sponsored programming in other forms of media. But not so fast, phones are different. For one thing, our time is very limited with this device and even if it allows us to get content for free, do we have enough idle time to watch that commercial or sponsored message too? My guess is not. Which leads me to believe the rest of the word has it right on this device and we are barking up the wrong tree.

It does not mean that sponsors cannot participate. Carrier services are a commodity. This is clear by constant price wars and ill-backed claims of better networks. Proprietary content may be the only thing to separate one carrier from another in the future.

ESPN actually had it right despite their mobile phone failure. If I am a sports nut, I might just gravitate to one carrier over another for the best sports content. The mistake ESPN made was trying to actually get into the phone business rather than having their content exclusively integrated with one carrier.

Brands need to find ways to form relationships with consumers in inventive ways on these devices. Providers need to work with brands and content creators to secure proprietary content for their networks or face being placed in the same commoditized marketplace they are in now. Both need to bring us content of value, or we won’t be willing to pay for it.

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